We were promised flying cars. Instead, we got Facebook.
It’s not that Facebook doesn’t have any utility. I’m thrilled that I can keep in touch with distant relatives and second grade classmates.
It’s just the utopian future we’ve always envisioned has yet to arrive.
Sure, we’ve got smartphones and smart watches that allow us to communicate with anyone, anywhere. We can also store tons of photos of our kids and pets.
We also have smart TVs that let us stream our favorite shows and movies on demand.
And there are smart coffee machines that will order you another bag of Costa Rican dark roast before you run out.
There’s even a new plant-based meat substitute called Beyond Meat that allows vegans to enjoy a juicy cheeseburger, provided the cheese is made from almond milk.
But these new technologies haven’t yet led to widespread prosperity in the economic sense of the word.
We’re Working More Than Ever
In 1930, famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted his grandkids would be working 15-hour weeks.
Keynes got a lot of things right, but this one was way off.
We are now working more, not less, than ever before.
(Perhaps Keynes was right about his grandkids. After all, his magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, still collects royalties for his estate.)
In Keynes’ time, the impact of the Industrial Revolution led to a sharp decline in average weekly hours.
New machinery powered by technologies such as electricity and the internal combustion engine allowed workers to produce more with less human input.
Keynes expected this trend to continue with the rise of new technologies. However, the last 50-plus years have bucked that trend.
The steady decline of weekly hours flatlined during the Great Depression and then slowly rose over the past few decades.
One of the reasons for the long workweek is that for all of our recent technological innovations, productivity hasn’t rapidly increased.
Productivity is the key measure of economic success.
It measures how much output society can get from a given input. It determines the average standard of living and is the difference-maker between advanced and developing countries.
A reasonable person would expect that the past decade’s developments around automation and the internet would lead to a more productive workforce.
But that’s not the case.
We’re About to Hit a Tipping Point
In the past 100 years, there was only one big wave of productivity (as measured in total factor productivity) that occurred in the first half of the 20th century.
There was also a little bump in the 1990s, but that tapered off as quickly as it arrived:
It took a few decades before the breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution translated into productivity.
The first automobile patent was awarded to Karl Benz in 1886, but it was decades before Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T.
Thomas Edison produced the first light bulb in 1879, yet 50 years later only half the homes in the United States had electricity.
Developments like the automobile and the light bulb started slowly at first, but then suddenly became part of everyday life.
This ushered in all kinds of new home appliances, like the dishwasher and washing machine, that freed us from the toils of home labor.
And like the productivity surge that followed the Industrial Revolution, we are about to hit the tipping point of the information technology revolution.
Because the internet has followed a similar trajectory as electricity.
It’s been around for three decades. However, for most of its lifespan, the internet has only been used to search a giant database called the web.
That’s about to change.
Get Ready for the Roaring 2020s
Right now, all the disruptive trends that you’ve been reading about are converging, and this will usher in a massive wave of productivity.
Within the next five years, nearly everyone on planet Earth will have internet access, putting the world’s information in the palms of their hands.
Think about it…
Billions of devices will collect and transmit the world’s information over high-speed 5G networks, launching new disruptive trends into the 21st century.
Blockchains will create new financial networks, as users can own something of digital value that can no longer be duplicated.
Robo-taxis will use artificial intelligence software to shuttle your kids safely to soccer practice. Robo-trucks will ship goods cheaply around the U.S., bringing manufacturing back to the United States.
The way we think about cities will change as traffic and parking become a thing of the past.
The world’s best surgeons will be robots.
It will be like the Roaring ’20s have arrived again — a decade of increased productivity and prosperity.
Perhaps we’ll finally reach John Maynard Keynes’ 15-hour workweek. Or maybe work will be entirely reserved for robots. Only time will tell.
A Special Announcement…
I’m excited to announce that game-changing technologies and innovations like 5G internet, artificial intelligence, robots, the Internet of Things and blockchain will be the centerpiece of Automatic Fortunes, the new newsletter I’m writing that launches soon.
Each month, readers of Automatic Fortunes will have a front-row seat as I investigate and chronicle life-changing innovations and the best investment opportunities to profit from these trends.
So be on the lookout for information on how to subscribe.
Editor, Crypto Profit Trader